By Richard Valeriote
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See fulﬁlled the prophets’ warning, Heaven and earth in ashes burning! We altar boys sang in the choir at Manny’s funeral at Sacred Heart before an overﬂow crowd. His death evoked the sympathy of many mothers and fathers who harbored unspoken terrors of ﬁnding themselves in the same situation as Manny’s parents. I’m sure every one thought, There but for the grace of God … The cofﬁn was smothered in ﬂowers whose perfume mingled with the candle smoke and permeated the church. Sitting there quietly waiting for the service to begin, I watched large waxen tears slide slowly down the candle into the receptacle below.
Mrs Ferraro was short and could barely see over the porch railing. Whenever someone passed, she’d lift herself up on the arms of her chair and crane to see who it was, then sit down again. Mrs Dupuis seldom smiled as she sat on her porch waving her ever-present fan. I imagined that her dourness reﬂected some painful secret. Mr Skoronski liked to sit out in the direct sun, even on hot days. He was always neatly dressed and always wore a fedora. A lone railroad spur in the neighborhood led to the place where the engineer drove the roundhouse locomotive each night, opened a hatch in the belly, and emptied the ﬁrebox onto the ground.
My mother agreed with Dominic and I took it on faith that the two of them were working as a team to see that I learned the 34 / The Ward rudiments of economics early in life. The lesson, however, would not become clear until I was older. My friends and I spent the summer discussing and debating the big choice we would have to make in September: whether to take the industrial or the academic program. I sought Dominic’s counsel and he recommended that I learn a trade. With my good grades, the academic route would inevitably lead to the opportunity to attend university and that was expensive, he said.